The urge to (e)merge: Dialectical synthesis and the human need to create



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Understanding the dialectical nature of creativity – as an emergent synthesis of antithetical components – may shed light on its binary functions and paradoxes, help us understand why efforts to study it have been antithetical themselves, and illuminate our own motives toward self-integration. Prompted by a long history of myths and misunderstanding surrounding creativity, this paper draws upon both psychological science and humanistic scholarship to explore the myriad dichotomies involved with the creative process – e.g., between divergence and convergence, incubation and insight, the default and executive attention neural networks, etc. – required for creative synthesis. The creative person is also addressed in terms of the dialectical traits and disparate impulses more typical of eminent creators, including the tensions between the individual and the sociocultural context, as one feels compelled toward self-integration and creative activity. The creative product is considered dialectically as an emergent synthesis of remote elements, bearing qualities that exceed the sum of its independent components. Finally, this paper proposes an emergent synthesis of its own as it tracks how a conflict as old as Plato and Aristotle has informed our current views on creativity and human psychology. It concludes with suggested applications of the dialectical theory of creativity for mental health, educational and organizational practices, and research methods.



creativity, dialectic, Plato versus Aristotle, paradoxical thinking, antithesis and synthesis, emergence, Janusian thinking